The Herald Bulletin

October 15, 2011

Jim Bailey: Mounds Mall changed Anderson’s shopping patterns

By Jim Bailey
For The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Those who remember the glory days of shopping in downtown Anderson probably also remember the two words that changed all that forever: Mounds Mall.

Virgil Cook owned the land northwest of the junction of Mounds Road and the then-109 bypass, a former landfill. He promoted a revolutionary idea: Build an enclosed shopping mall with acres of free parking. The result was the first completely enclosed mall in Indiana.

When Mounds Mall opened, Montgomery Ward had relocated from Meridian Street. The major clothing anchor was Wasson’s. Near the main entrance, with a separate entrance of its own, was a SuperX drug store. On the northwest end was a Kroger grocery store. There was also a Hoyt Wright location in the mall.

Only two of the early businesses have survived the nearly 50-year history of Mounds Mall: MCL Cafeteria and Zale’s Jewelry. It was at Zale’s where Bonnie purchased my wedding ring.

A Woolworth location was opened along the west side, and various other shops have come and gone. I think there has always been a barber shop and/or beauty shop, and a Waldenbooks operated there for many years. So did a Hallmark store.

In the beginning, the center part of the mall had a stage and a recessed pit for seating, the intention being to attract shoppers with entertainment events. I believe the restrooms also were located in this part of the mall.

The free parking and temperature comfort appealed to shoppers, especially when downtown stores began relocating to the mall. J.C. Penney built on at an undeveloped part of the complex. Kroger soon decided a mall-centered grocery wasn’t a good idea, and a home store occupied the vacant space. And when Montgomery Ward downsized nationally and the Anderson location fell victim, Sears immediately claimed the location and moved from its Main Street store.

The stage idea didn’t work out, so the recessed part became a collection of specialty shops for a while. Eventually the mall was remodeled to put everything on one level and patterned the traffic flow more in line with the next generation of malls.

Other merchants opted for outlots, including two movie theaters and a couple of restaurants, Sizzler and a Bonanza steak house. For many years a huge slide and a baseball batting cage provided a recreational outlet. And other businesses fronting on Mounds and Scatterfield roads took advantage of the mall traffic.

These developments alone were enough to sound the death knell for downtown Anderson as the center of shopping in Anderson.

But shopping patterns continued evolving, and soon rival strip malls only sprang up across Scatterfield Road and further south.

Applewood Centre south of 53rd Street mushroomed, and when Hoosier Park opened (again with Cook’s largesse), the south end of Scatterfield became the boomtown.

Mounds Mall still stands. But like the city it serves, it is in the process of reinventing itself.

Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by e-mail at jameshenrybailey